Meet Connor: Project Pengyou Intern

by Project Pengyou on June 16th, 2014   7165 views

Hey everyone! My name is Connor and I’m a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania.

Connor Fairman

Name: Connor Fairman
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Chinese name: 费康南
China experience: I came during high school with my Chinese class. This is my second time back and the first time I’ve been here for an extended period of time.
Where I’ve traveled in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Hainan, Ningbo
Life goal: Own a farm

Hey everyone! My name is Connor and I’m a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m not sure what I’m going to major in yet, but I like to think that the uncertainty of my academic future is more exciting than daunting.

Indeed, it was this love of exploring the unknown that brought me to Beijing this summer for a few months that I will never forget.

As a short, obnoxious fourteen-year-old with braces and a penchant for playing video games over doing homework, I was naturally infuriated when my mother went behind my back and signed me up for introductory Chinese my freshman year of high-school.

Not only did it take up forty-five minutes that was allotted to lounging about with my friends, it was also taught by Hsieh Laoshi, or as everyone at school called her, “that crazy Chinese lady.”

Needless to say, I was dreading the first day of class and my first encounter with this terrifying woman. Hsieh Laoshi didn’t fail to live up to her reputation. After storming into the classroom and slamming the door behind her (her preferred method of entering any room full of students), the first thing she asked us, which will remain with me forever, was, “Why are you taking Chinese?”

Obviously I didn’t dare say that I was taking it because my mother was forcing me to, so I quickly made something up about wanting to broaden my mind, which she graciously accepted as a legitimate answer.


Hsieh Lao Shi’s Chinese class took me completely outside of my comfort zone with its never-ending character sheets, compositions, oral tests, and whatever else she concocted in her free time to catch us off guard. Many students simply couldn’t handle the commitment that her Chinese class required and quit.

At first I despised the fact that I was taking a class against my will with a teacher who wanted me dead, eventually Chinese class began to grow on me.

In a seven hour school day with the same predictable classes, I loved coming to Chinese class knowing I’d be challenged in ways I hadn’t before; it kept me constantly engaged. I even became friends with my “crazy” Chinese teacher, who actually didn’t hate us, but simply wanted to see us become the best Chinese speakers we possibly could.

Learning Chinese has played an irreversibly positive role in my life.

After all, this is what it means to truly learn a language, especially if you plan on speaking it in its country of origin. You will consistently be caught off guard, sometimes even frightened, and you will always be forced to take risks in order to achieve your goals—whether you are desperately trying to make it to a concert on top of the Great Wall from Dongcheng in the middle of a rainstorm, or asking a girl out on a date whose English vocabulary consists of “bye-bye” and the names of various celebrities that she thinks you look like.

Despite how difficult it is to become proficient, learning Chinese has played an irreversibly positive role in my life by giving me the opportunity to visit different places and discover my own passion for languages.

I hope that through emphasizing my own positive experiences studying Chinese, other Americans will be inspired to broaden their horizons as well.


As an intern with Project Pengyou this summer, I hope to join the ranks of bridge builders who work tirelessly to create mutual understanding and appreciation between the United States and China. There’s no telling what the next few months will bring, but regardless of whatever difficulties I may face, I am excited to overcome them as a member of the Project Penyou team.

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